It’s countdown to Houston for Garibaldi secondary’s rookie robotics club.
“A little nervous, but also quite excited,” said Greg Adams, a Grade 10 student, about preparing to compete at the First Robotics Championship Competition in Houston, Texas, from April 18-21.
Adams is one of 14 students from grades 8-10 on the first-year Garibaldi team that’s named Iris Robotics.
The team earned a spot in the world championships after competing at the Canadian Pacific Regional in March.
More than 400 teams from around the globe will compete in Houston.
For the uninitiated, here’s how the competition works: “Teams of 10 students or more are challenged to design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors,” explains the First Robotics website.
The competition, “combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology.”
The Garibaldi club formed this year after a new student from California who had been on a robotics team asked teachers about starting a club.
But halfway through building the robot, the student’s family moved back to California.
“All the students stepped up,” explained Niko Skartvedt, a math/science teacher at Garibaldi who oversees the club. “The experience really helped us develop as a team.”
Along with coding, engineering and teamwork, club members have also gained a lot of other valuable skills. “Communication with other teams and with big companies, budgeting, leadership, organization,” said Skartvedt. “The students write all the letters to donors, they are in charge of the different sectors of the team – outreach, engineering, coding, design – and they are using social media to communicate effectively.”
“Just being involved with the team is a great experience for me,” explained Tom Lee, Grade 11. “When I first joined I thought these kids can do something for the school because this is the first robotics club in our school. Some people are saying that they are going to come back when they graduate to support the robotics team later on too.”
Added Shannon Labbe, Grade 8, “[There are] so many different personalities, jobs and interests and skills, and you get to learn from all these different people.”
Skartvedt is equally proud of the legacy the team is creating in the school district, both at the elementary and secondary school level.
To help grow interest in robotics, the club has presented at a local tech conference and has plans to start Lego leagues in elementary schools and to tour schools with their robot.
“It started as ‘Let’s build a robot’ and has evolved to ‘Let’s create an environment in the district that cultivates coding, engineering, and design.’ The scale of the project has grown exponentially, and the kids are at the helm.”
During their stay in Houston, the team from Garibaldi also has special field trip planned.
“We will be touring NASA in Houston,” said Skartvedt.